10 Second Ninja X Review

By Kevin Tavore, 5 months ago
Yesterday I was sitting at my TV thinking through the level before me. In 10 Second Ninja X, I have 10 seconds in each level to eliminate all of the enemies using my sword and three shurikens. This particular level is giving me a bit of trouble. I can get the three star rating, but not consistently. I need to change my strategy, but I'm not sure exactly how. I try again. And again. Each time I'm one or two milliseconds off. I know there's something I'm missing, I'm just not sure what it is. Finally, it clicks - I've been approaching it all wrong. I alter my strategy slightly and pretty soon I'm nailing the level every time. At its core, this is what 10 Second Ninja X is all about.

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First, you need to find the right path. Ten seconds might seem like a short amount of time to get through the level, but there's almost always more than one way to do it in time and the challenge here is figuring out how to do it. If you want the three star rating, you'll need to be flawless. You need to jump at exactly the right time. You need to throw your shuriken not a second too early but not a second too late either. Depending on whether or not you selected the right path, sometimes you need a bit of luck as well. You'll be constantly restarting and attempting to shave off milliseconds from your time because it's addictive to keep trying the same thing over and over.

10 Second Ninja X nails this gameplay by offering instant restarts whenever you want. You're going to come up a fraction of a second short. You're going to make a tiny error that ruins the run. You're going to have to rethink everything... and that's all okay. At most, you've spent only 10 seconds on the previous failure before you're starting again. If you are at an impasse on a particular level, the game does provide what seems to be an unlimited supply of "hints" that unlock a ghost that will show you the correct path to take to get a three star rating. This removes a lot of the frustration that can come when you find out that you're a full two seconds shy of a three star rating. When you finally get it, that feeling of joy is all that you need to jump right into the next level and do it all again. The hints are unlocked by playing a simple matching minigame, something that adds a bit of spice to what could have been a drab affair.

Electricity, colors, and ninjas. What more could you want?Electricity, colors, and ninjas. What more could you want?

This is one indie game with quite a bit of character. The game's protagonist is kidnapped by a pirate with an eyepatch and a fluffy beard, who then forces you to traverse the levels aboard his pirate skyship. The tone of the game is always jovial and it's clearly not meant to be taken seriously. At any time, you can hop out of the normal grind and take a look around the ship. Beyond the aforementioned hint minigame, there are a few other extras that you can experience.

There's a room full of costumes that you can unlock, all of which are tied to tasks that you'll complete while getting achievements. Then there are nine collectibles that aren't too troublesome to find; these unlock another minigame called Think of the Children. Think of the Children is a 2D shoot'em up that isn't really very fun, but it is a change of pace for the 20 minutes that you'll spend playing it. As you explore the ship looking for those collectibles or playing the minigames, you'll meet a few colorful characters who add another bit of flair to the game, although they don't do much other than serve as set pieces. Oftentimes a hub world can feel sterile, but the humor pops up enough times to keep a smile on your face without overstaying its welcome.

Apparently he has taken all the birds and put them in robots!Apparently he has taken all the birds and put them in robots!

Alongside the game's main mode, there is Marathon Mode and it's the highlight of the entire game. Marathon Mode tasks you with completing all ten levels of a world in a row. If you want to achieve the coveted X rank, you need to do them all without dying, without restarting, and within the three star time. It's a real challenge and serves as a great capstone to the experience of the game. It seems brutally difficult at first, but with a bit of practice you'll be getting them in no time.

While the experience was mostly very good, there were a few issues that reared up. The first was in regards to the difficulty. The first 60 levels all neatly scale in difficulty, but the 40 legacy levels, those from the original PC exclusive 10 Second Ninja, are jarring in comparison; some are easy while some are extremely complicated making for unpredictable difficulty spikes. The second issue comes with getting the three star times. The times can be so unforgiving that the difficulty flips and the easiest levels in the game become mind-numbingly hard, while the complicated levels are basically a cakewalk. It's good to see the developers learned in this sequel and did a great job with balance there, but it would have been nice if they had revised the time requirements on the legacy levels if they were going to include them.

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Beyond the difficulty spikes, there were two technical issues that came up regularly. In this game, you're going to be constantly hitting cn_RB to restart, sometimes almost immediately upon starting since deadly electricity is often right next to your spawn. If you die and restart quickly many times in a short space of time, the framerate can slow to a crawl as the game tries to keep up with your restarts. There is an easy fix - you simply wait a second for it to go away - and the levels are so short that it never really ruins the experience, but it happens often enough to be a minor irritation. Additionally, while the single level leaderboards work fine, the leaderboard for each Marathon Mode takes your initial time only, which effectively renders them worthless. It's disappointing to say the least.

The achievements in the game are all basic and have you moving through just about everything that the game has to offer. Many of them are story-related and will simply unlock once you get a certain amount of stars or view a specific story sequence. There are also a few miscellaneous achievements for actions like trying on a costume or jumping off the ship. The biggest block to getting the completion is definitely going to be earning X ranks in each Marathon Mode, but with a bit of practice even that is very attainable. Overall the list is certainly challenging, but not outrageous.

Summary

10 Second Ninja X is a fun indie game with a lot of content to offer. It's based on simple gameplay concepts, but every piece has a place and it all comes together in a very nice package. With 100 levels to play through, it's not something that you'll run through quickly if you're focused on maximizing your times, but the levels are so short that they never overstay their welcome either. Ultimately, this is one of those rare games that really is exactly what it looks like. It's an indie platformer with plenty of heart and a challenge worth staying for.
4 / 5
Positives
  • Plenty of content to play through
  • Challenging at all skill levels but never unfair
  • Humor and tone compliment the game very well
Negatives
  • Legacy levels need improvement
  • Leaderboards don't work in Marathon Mode
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent 20 hours slashing thousands of robots through the game's main content as well as the marathon modes and extras. He even unlocked all of the costumes along the way to a full 12 out of 12 achievements. A copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.
Kevin Tavore
Written by Kevin Tavore
Purveyor of news articles and the occasional walkthrough or op-ed. The American equivalent of Aristotle. Likes almost all genres but has an unhealthy aversion to exploration and puzzles. Nicest place he'd never want to go? Japan.